As he waved his hands in the air counting us off, I realized this was the last time. I was unsure how I felt. With a sudden intake of breath to signify the commencement of the song from our director, I blew outwards into my instrument kicking off the start to “Dance Like No One’s Watching.” The Latin rock melody echoed throughout the auditorium stronger than usual. It was the final tune of the night. The most anticipated and iconic song of the band had been already initiated at fortissimo. Somehow everyone forgot the painful and exhausting early morning rehearsals we endured together. The unrealistic standards of perfecting every aspect of every song held by the reputation of this band were forgotten. The tempo also increased by multiple paces. Yet, I did not mind the volume or the speed and despite the fact that it felt like the past few weeks had been flying by as fast as this performance, I was ready to leave this small school and move on. As we reached the shout chorus, our director, one of the happiest men alive, stepped back, dropping his conducting hands, and smiled at us. I grinned back. He turned to the audience with pride palpable upon his face.
This was our big farewell to middle school and welcome into high school. The disappointment of leaving loomed over my head while playing, but that too was pushed aside. I focused on the notes and rhythms. We had rehearsed raising our trumpet bells into the air during this segment of the song. When we pointed them heavenbound, the fanfare blazing, he turned to the crowd with a face that could only ask, “How cool are these guys?” The audience roared in approval, rising from their seats. Surrounded by companions, I missed a measure because I was smiling again. It faded as I realized for the second time this was my final piece I would play in the band. I thought back to my past experiences with this ensemble. I remembered watching my sister play on this stage when I was in elementary school and sitting awe-struck by the band of which I was now proud to consider myself a key player.
During the entirety of my middle school experience, I was fortunate enough to have witnessed this night from three different perspectives. I changed from the reserved sixth grader struggling to play my part, to an outgoing eighth grader who helped and encouraged the younger students in my section.
I turned my attention back to the music. Measure 96, my cue, was approaching fast.
The saxophones finished their phrase. In unison, we played the repetitive jazzy theme for the last time in concert. The two words that were stuck in my head were clean and crisp. I wondered how many others were feeling the same bittersweet emotions. Teeth showing, a sense of accomplishment washed over me. It was time to move on.